Hat Couture

It’s widely known that I love hats, and ANY book that brings more folks to the hat-loving fold is absolutely dandy with me!

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 3.28.59 PM Cooperative Press is releasing a new book, Hat Couture, by Theressa Silver, which contains 13 hat patterns, all worked up in Cascade wool yarn.

I interviewed Theressa about her upcoming book and her designs process, here is the text of our chat:

What is it about hats that compelled you to put together this collection of patterns.

I’ve always loved hats, but the idea for making fancy knit hats came about 3 years ago when a knitter friend asked me to join her in a retail gallery show.  She makes purses and suggested I could make hats.

Since this was a fairly upscale place, I wanted to make something that was more than just knit caps.  I had a lot of fun playing around with shape, structure, and embellishment and came up with a collection of hats for the show that became the inspiration for the book.

Was there a certain technique or point of view about hats that you would like to share with your readers?

I’m having a blast playing with structural, 3-dimensional shapes.  I create them by choosing yarns with lots of body and then knitting them at a very tight gauge.

Making knit objects that stand up on their own is really cool!  I like knitting things that make you do a double-take.  I mean, who expects a knit top hat?

What is your millinery background?

None, other than looking at a lot of hats.  I do have a sewing background, but really I taught myself by trial and error.

I’d love to take a millinery course and learn some of the tricks of the trade.

What millinery techniques are used in the book?

Shaping the hats during the blocking process has quite a bit in common with shaping a traditional millinery hat over a hat block.

I also used buckram to create a frame for one of the hats.  But mostly it’s about capturing the feel of classical millinery in the shapes and decorations of the hats more than actually trying to transfer techniques.

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 3.33.13 PMWhat is it that you consider has raised your knit hats to a ‘couture‘ level?

Each one is lovingly hand made, that’s “couture,” right?

Seriously, I wanted to distinguish my hats from the more typically casual knit hats.  I love a good slouchy beret or cozy beanie and wear a lot of them, but these are special, more elegant.

I encourage the knitter to indulge in lavish materials for the embellishments.  It’s about taking the knit hat to the next level.

Do you have plans for any future books?

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 3.33.47 PM

Theressa Silver

I have a couple of ideas, but nothing for sure yet.  There will be a piece coming out in Knit Edge Magazine Issue 3 discussing this knitting tight technique and applying it to the construction of knit bowls.

I’d like to curate a group book next.  I like the idea of blending many artistic visions into a coherent whole.

GIVEAWAY!

If you enjoy creating unusual knit hats, I feel that you’d really enjoy this book!  I’m giving away an ecopy [pdf] of Hat Couture to a lucky [random] reader who leaves a comment answering the following question:

Have you ever worn a hat specifically for an Easter Parade, and if not, would you?

I can’t wait to read your comments – and good luck!  I’ll declare a winner by Tuesday, 3/26/13.

Knit Edge Magazine

If you’re interested in reading about Theressa’s tight-knitting technique in Knit Edge magazine, a new online-only magazine brought to you by Cooperative Press, you can get $2 off a subscription by using the code “modeknitsilver” when you subscribe.

A New Project, A New Sidepath

Barbie's Scale set permanently at 110 lbs (image by CarrieBee)

A few years ago there was a Barbie doll who famously cried, “Math class is TOUGH!” as one of her pre-recorded soundbites.

Mattel heard the well-deserved cries of protest and yanked Teen Talk Barbie and chalked the whole thing up to a PR nightmare.

Girls don’t need encouragement to believe that mad math skills are beyond them.

My own math journey wasn’t smooth.  I was in advanced math in Jr. High, but upon transferring to a new school which didn’t believe in ‘advanced’ classes I was given a choice to return to a lower class with my 8th grade peers, or move into the 9th grade (elective) class.

I chose the latter, and the teacher (who wasn’t thrilled with a new girl in class, bringing the total female population in advanced algebra to TWO) dogged every equation I wrote on the board.

“Yes, Annette got the right answer,
but she got it the WRONG way…”

It was my last math class – I ended the year with a “D” after a solid A/B average for the previous 2 years in my old school, and I shied away from math stuff for years.

Then I began designing, and I re-discovered the joy of numbers.  It’s almost poetic when I can get the gauge and stitch repeats to work well together, creating a simplified, universal pattern that can be easily altered.  Here’s an example of a recent trip through math hell.

But for the past year – probably more (I’ve been trying HARD to ignore this) my brain is not dealing with sums as well as it has.  At first I thought it was my imagination, then I thought it was pure laziness

Now I’m forced to admit that when I’m return to a pattern in one of my math worksheets I have no memory of my previous encounters with the same formulas.

The good news is that it’s forced me to label all of my columns (which note body measurements and changes in the pattern) INCREDIBLY clearly so I can jog my memory when I return to the pattern.  Clarity is good.

The bad news is that patterns take longer to write.  Recently I wrote up a pattern for a simple shrug.  I’ll admit that the lace pattern was a bit of a bear (I reworked it 3 times to simplify it without losing the beauty) but still, writing the pattern took me approximately 20 hours when a similar pattern might have taken me 4-5 hours a few years ago.

This is so frustrating.  I know it has a lot to do with the fibromyalgia, and I wonder if – in a warmer, sunnier month my brain might be clicking away in a more efficient manner.  But right now it is what it is.

So, while I’m NOT giving up designing hand knit and crochet patterns, I’m branching out a bit to add a bit more joy in my life – and hopefully diversify my income.

Annie Modesitt Fine Millinery

Bytham Cabbage Rose Hat

I’m making Millinery. Hats. Caps. Dome-pieces. Do-rags. Lids.

And I’m selling them on Etsy!

These pieces won’t be available as knitting patterns, that’s part of the joy for me.  I just need to be able to MAKE stuff without worrying about how to tell others how to make the same thing.

Wisbech Cloche

I sometimes find myself stymied by the difficulty in explaining a complex technique, and I avoid some beautiful details in my work for just this reason.

So the hats will be an escape for me, a bit of joy in a few cold, dark months when math doesn’t come as easily as it might.  I’ll make hay – and patterns – when the sun shines.

Edmondthorpe Cloche

If you know anyone who is looking for a beautiful, unusual, interesting hat for a special occasion, direct them over to my website or etsy store.

I’m happy to do commission work, and with the wealth of yarns out there I can match or complement just about any fabric or trim.

It would be lovely to see more brides wearing fine millinery, and the lacework brims on my hats create a ‘shadow veil’ which is flattering to any face!

Four Hats To Cool Heads

Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

I’m finishing up my fourth hat this week, and you might wonder why…

It’s not a charity hat per se, although I’ve knitted many of those.  It’s not exactly a gift, although I know who the intended recipient is.

I’m knitting in the hopes of facilitating a bit of civility in congress.

It’s an idea that Alison at SpinDyeKnit and my friend Ellen at Twinset had, and it’s explained in greater detail here at facebook, and on Alison’s blog.

I’ll write a letter to put with each of my hats, which will read something like this note by Ellen:

Dear Congressperson,

This hat was hand knit with care for you.  Many of your colleagues will also be receiving hats from knitters of all political stripes and from all around the nation.

Why a hat?  Knit hats meet a simple need for warmth.  They are an every day comfort.  Everyone can use a good hat.

Civil political discourse also meets a simple need – the need for our government to have the best information and insights from many viewpoints.  It would be an every day comfort to me and many other Americans if the airwaves were free of hate-filled rhetoric, and it would lead to good government.   As I’m sure you agree, everyone can use good government.

Thank you for your service, and best regards,

Annie

P.S.  More information about this effort, Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads can be found at http://twinset.us/?p=3732 or http://spindyeknit.com/2011/01/lets-change-the-world/.  If you can not personally use this hat, please donate it to a worthy charity.

I’ve chosen a few congress folk with whom I agree, and some who I don’t, because that seems in the spirit of the whole thing.

Ellen’s keeping a tally of who has agreed to knit which congress critter a hat, and whether they’re sent off individually or together is still being decided. 

I like to think of this as a knitters version of Senator Franken’s Hot Dish Cook Off a few weeks ago.

It’s a small thing, but sometimes the softest gesture can have the firmest impact.

If you’d like to be a part of this effort and knit up a hat for a congress person to express to them your hope (and expectation) that they engage in civil dialogue while working on our behalf, contact Ellen via Ravelry (she’s twinsetellen) or leave a post here and I’ll get the information over to her (don’t leave your email in the actual comment, just type it in the email box and it will be hidden from the world but visible to me!)